Man pleads not guilty to murdering estranged wife

SAN DIEGO (CNS) – An 83-year-old man accused of fatally shooting his 57-year-old estranged wife at point-blank range on a busy Gaslamp District street last weekend pleaded not guilty Wednesday to a murder charge.

Joseph Gotell faces 50 years to life in prison if convicted. Judge David Szumowski set the defendant's bail at $1 million.

Deputy District Attorney C.J. Mody told the judge that the defendant confronted Deborah Gotell about 2:15 p.m. Saturday near the corner of Fifth Avenue and Broadway.

They argued, and Gotell pulled out a .32-caliber handgun and shot his wife twice in the head and once in the right arm, the prosecutor alleged.

She was declared brain dead the next morning.

After the shooting, the defendant threw his gun about 10 feet away and was quickly detained by two security guards, who turned him over to a passing San Diego police officer, Mody said.

The prosecutor lost a bid to have the defendant held without bail.

“Ms. Gotell's death was an absolute tragedy, but we are very lucky that no one else was injured or hurt as a result of this shooting,” the prosecutor told reporters outside the courtroom.

Mody said the Gotells had separated after about five years of marriage.

Deborah Gotell was out running errands when she was confronted by her estranged husband, the prosecutor said.

A motive for the shooting was not clear.

Police believe there were witnesses to the shooting, Mody said. Anyone who may have witnessed the shooting or has surveillance video in the vicinity should contact the District Attorney's Office, he said.

Three of the victim's adult daughters told reporters Tuesday that their mother had broken away several times from the defendant, but he kept showing up in places where he knew she would be.

The daughters said they felt guilty that they didn't do more to help their mother get away from their stepfather, saying they wanted to call attention to domestic abuse and how victims can get help.

According to court records, Joseph Gotell had several liens and civil judgments against him. He had also filed lawsuits in federal court, apparently in response to being evicted.

A preliminary hearing was set for June 1.

Categories: KUSI